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Never in Place : Eliade and Judaïc Sacred Space / Jamais à sa place. Eliade et l'espace sacré dans le judaïsme - article ; n°1 ; vol.87, pg 135-152

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1994 - Volume 87 - Numéro 1 - Pages 135-152
La question du lieu est centrale en Israël. La réalité israélienne est la conséquence du mouvement de retour des juifs à leur ancien lieu et, de ce fait, du retour du lieu à l'avant du discours juif. Leur retour au lieu confronte les Israéliens non seulement aux Palestiniens mais aussi à eux-mêmes en tant que juifs peu enclins à se considérer comme de vulgaires autochtones enfermés dans les limites d'un territoire circonscrit. Pour le judaïsme l'identité d'Israël est inscrite dans la terre et dans ses livres - bibliques et post-bibliques - lesquels ont été intégrés dans le discours sioniste. L'étude des idées les plus répandues sur le lieu juif/israélien révèle que celles-ci se limitent rarement aux seules notions de nativité, centralité, cosmologie et sacralité. Ces concepts, souvent utilisés en anthropologie pour donner un contenu au lieu, ne sont admis d'emblée ni par les textes du judaïsme ni par la réalité israélienne. Si la pensée juive accorde la plus haute importance au lieu, celui-ci se heurte toujours pourtant à la résistance que lui oppose l'idée du divin. C'est cette difficulté qu'éprouve la pensée juive à assigner une place au lieu qui fait l'objet du présent article, juxtaposée aux conceptions de Mircéa Eliade et de quelques-uns de ses critiques. L'analyse dessine quelques motifs mythico-religieux : la terre de Canaan comme lieu, le Temple de Jérusalem comme paradigme du lieu saint. Elle se clôt par une discussion autour de la problématique du lieu saint dans l'Israël contemporain.
Place is a central phenomenon in Israel. Contemporary Israeli reality is a consequence of the movement of return of Jews to their ancient place, and thereby of the return of the place to the fore of Judaic discourse. The return to the place confronts Israelis not only with Palestinians but with themselves as Jews who are reluctant to become ordinary natives confined by the contours of a specific territory. The Judaic notion of Israeli identity is inscribed in the land and in its books - the biblical and post biblical scriptures - incorporated by the Zionist discourse. The study of the prevalent notions of the Israeli/Judaic place reveals that it hardly bears a simple sense of nativity, centrality, cosmology and sacredeness. These concepts, commonly used in anthropology to render what place is, are not taken for granted in Judaic texts nor in Israeli reality. In Judaic thought the place is highly important, but it is always in resistance to as well as in compliance with the idea of the Divine. This element of unplaceability is explored in the present paper, juxtaposing it with the conceptions of Mircea Eliade and of some of his critics. The analysis draws on a selection of mythical/religious motives concerning the whole land of Canaan as place, and on the Jerusalem temple as a paradigmatic case of sacred place, and concludes with a discussion of the unique problematic of sacred place in contemporary Israel.
El tema del «lugar» es central en Israel. La realidad israelita es la con secuencia del retorno de los judios a su antiguo «lugar» y, por esta razón, del retorno del «lugar» como tema central del discurso judios. El retorno al «lugar» confronta los Israelitas no únicamente con los Palestinos sino con ellos mismos en tanto que judíos que aceptan difícilmente el considerarse como simples autóctonos encerrados en los mites de un territorio preciso. Para el Judaismo la identidad de Israel está inscrita en la tierra en los libros - bílicos y postbíblicos - los cuales has sido integrados en el discurso sionista. El estudio de las ideas más difundidas sobre el «lugar judiol/israelita» evidencia que en muy pocos casos se refiere únicamente las nociones de natividad, centralidad, cosmología sacralidad. Estos conceptos, utilizados frecuentemente en antropología para dar un contenido al «lugar», no son aceptado ni por los textos del judaismo ni por la realidad israelita. Si bien es cierto que el pensamiento judío asigna la más grande importancia al «lugar» no es menos cierto que ese «lugar» se enfrenta siempre la resistencia que la idea de lo divino le opone. Es esta dificultad que encuentra el pensamiento judío a acordar un espacio al «lugar» que constituye en tema del presente artículo juxtapuesto las concepciones de Mircea Eliade algunos de sus críticos. El análisis se refiere algunos de los motivos mítico-religiosos: la tierra de Canaan como «lugar», el Templo de Jerusalén como paradigma del lugar santo. El artículo concluye con una discusión entorno la problemática del lugar santo en el Israel contemporáneo.
18 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.

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Publié le 01 janvier 1994
Nombre de lectures 21
Langue Español
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Zali Gurevitch
Gideon Aran
Never in Place : Eliade and Judaïc Sacred Space / Jamais à sa
place. Eliade et l'espace sacré dans le judaïsme
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 87, 1994. pp. 135-152.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Gurevitch Zali, Aran Gideon. Never in Place : Eliade and Judaïc Sacred Space / Jamais à sa place. Eliade et l'espace sacré
dans le judaïsme. In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 87, 1994. pp. 135-152.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1994.1459
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/assr_0335-5985_1994_num_87_1_1459Resumen
El tema del «lugar» es central en Israel. La realidad israelita es la con secuencia del retorno de los
judios a su antiguo «lugar» y, por esta razón, del retorno del «lugar» como tema central del discurso
judios. El retorno al confronta los Israelitas no únicamente con los Palestinos sino con ellos
mismos en tanto que judíos que aceptan difícilmente el considerarse como simples autóctonos
encerrados en los mites de un territorio preciso. Para el Judaismo la identidad de Israel está inscrita en
la tierra en los libros - bílicos y postbíblicos - los cuales has sido integrados en el discurso sionista. El
estudio de las ideas más difundidas sobre el «lugar judiol/israelita» evidencia que en muy pocos casos
se refiere únicamente las nociones de natividad, centralidad, cosmología sacralidad. Estos conceptos,
utilizados frecuentemente en antropología para dar un contenido al «lugar», no son aceptado ni por los
textos del judaismo ni por la realidad israelita. Si bien es cierto que el pensamiento judío asigna la más
grande importancia al «lugar» no es menos cierto que ese «lugar» se enfrenta siempre la resistencia
que la idea de lo divino le opone. Es esta dificultad que encuentra el pensamiento judío a acordar un
espacio al «lugar» que constituye en tema del presente artículo juxtapuesto las concepciones de
Mircea Eliade algunos de sus críticos. El análisis se refiere algunos de los motivos mítico-religiosos: la
tierra de Canaan como «lugar», el Templo de Jerusalén como paradigma del lugar santo. El artículo
concluye con una discusión entorno la problemática del lugar santo en el Israel contemporáneo.
Résumé
La question du lieu est centrale en Israël. La réalité israélienne est la conséquence du mouvement de
retour des juifs à leur ancien lieu et, de ce fait, du retour du "lieu" à l'avant du discours juif. Leur retour
au lieu confronte les Israéliens non seulement aux Palestiniens mais aussi à eux-mêmes en tant que
juifs peu enclins à se considérer comme de vulgaires autochtones enfermés dans les limites d'un
territoire circonscrit. Pour le judaïsme l'identité d'Israël est inscrite dans la terre et dans ses livres -
bibliques et post-bibliques - lesquels ont été intégrés dans le discours sioniste. L'étude des idées les
plus répandues sur le lieu juif/israélien révèle que celles-ci se limitent rarement aux seules notions de
nativité, centralité, cosmologie et sacralité. Ces concepts, souvent utilisés en anthropologie pour donner
un contenu au lieu, ne sont admis d'emblée ni par les textes du judaïsme ni par la réalité israélienne. Si
la pensée juive accorde la plus haute importance au lieu, celui-ci se heurte toujours pourtant à la
résistance que lui oppose l'idée du divin. C'est cette difficulté qu'éprouve la pensée juive à assigner une
place au lieu qui fait l'objet du présent article, juxtaposée aux conceptions de Mircéa Eliade et de
quelques-uns de ses critiques. L'analyse dessine quelques motifs mythico-religieux : la terre de Canaan
comme lieu, le Temple de Jérusalem comme paradigme du lieu saint. Elle se clôt par une discussion
autour de la problématique du lieu saint dans l'Israël contemporain.
Abstract
Place is a central phenomenon in Israel. Contemporary Israeli reality is a consequence of the
movement of return of Jews to their ancient place, and thereby of the return of "the place" to the fore of
Judaic discourse. The return to the place confronts Israelis not only with Palestinians but with
themselves as Jews who are reluctant to become ordinary natives confined by the contours of a specific
territory. The Judaic notion of Israeli identity is inscribed in the land and in its books - the biblical and
post biblical scriptures - incorporated by the Zionist discourse. The study of the prevalent notions of the
Israeli/Judaic place reveals that it hardly bears a simple sense of nativity, centrality, cosmology and
sacredeness. These concepts, commonly used in anthropology to render what place is, are not taken
for granted in Judaic texts nor in Israeli reality. In Judaic thought the place is highly important, but it is
always in resistance to as well as in compliance with the idea of the Divine. This element of
unplaceability is explored in the present paper, juxtaposing it with the conceptions of Mircea Eliade and
of some of his critics. The analysis draws on a selection of mythical/religious motives concerning the
whole land of Canaan as place, and on the Jerusalem temple as a paradigmatic case of sacred place,
and concludes with a discussion of the unique problematic of sacred place in contemporary Israel.Arch de Sc soc des Rel. 1994 87 juillet-septembre 135-152
Zali GUREVITCH
Gideon ARAN
NEVER IN PLACE
ELIADE AND JUDAIC SACRED SPACE
Place is central phenomenon is Israel Contemporary Israeli reality is
consequence of the movement of return of Jews to their ancient place and
thereby of the return of the place to the fore of Judaic discourse For new
comers and for second and third generation Israelis the place is focus of
hot debate in geo-political terms as well as in terms of identity The return
to the place confronts Israelis not only with Palestinians but with themselves
as Israelites inscribed as they are in the land and in its books the biblical
and post biblical scriptures
The study of ancient and current Israeli culture reveals that the prevalent
notion of place in anthropology mainly associated with the name of Mircea
Eliade is rather insufficient in explaining the place under study where there
is hardly simple sens of nativity centrality cosmology and sacredeness
These concepts commonly used in anthropology to render what place is are
not taken for granted in Judaic texts nor in Israeli reality
In Judaic thought the place is highly important but it is always in re
sistance to as well as in compliance with the idea of the Divine In fact God
himself is called Place Makom As Place God is the origin and locus
of the sacred which is not within the bounds of the cosmos and is essentially
unplaceable
This element of unplaceability will be explored in the present paper jux
taposing it with the conceptions of Eliade and of some of his critics Our
concern is the phenomenology of place as it is reflected mainly in the Jewish
founding text the Bible the effect of which can be shown to have existed
not only in ancient Israel but in contemporary Israel as well Our analysis
draws on selection of mythical motives concerning the whole land of Canaan
as place and on the Jerusalem temple as paradigmatic case of sacred place
TOTALITY AND RESISTANCE
The place is basic element in theory of religion where it is
associated with the center of the world Around the center people build
135 ARCHIVES DE SCIENCES SOCIALES DES RELIGIONS
home-cosmos that places the world around themselves as the world The
frustrating schism between self and world is thus resolved through notion
of totality place self and world are intertwined in one centered and har
monious whole
People define or erect points of connection located in specific spots on
earth which are indicated by an object stick tree rock mountain
or by built temple In these sites the bond between self and world is ritu
alized and mythicized and thus place itself is epitomized and made sacred
In sense the general implication of Eliade is that the sacred is tantamount
with being-in-place The sacred is the place and is attained when one is ulti
mately in place
The prevalent notion influenced mainly by Eliade is that the sacred places
the place in its place and worlds the world as our world Only there we
are given ourselves as the most natural inhabitants the natives of
the world The axis mundi that connects the place to the sacred is an axis of
totality Above and below far and close back and front are centered around
pole in and through the place The sacred is the sense of the beyond which
does not escape the world but rather returns the world to itself The experience
of connection is both that of opening toward and becoming one with the divine
cosmos self and Godhead become unity at once anchoring place and
being anchored by it
The Sacred is that something altogether other to the Profane Con
sequently it does not belong to the profane world it comes from somewhere
else it transcends this world. all Cosmoses keep an opening. in one way
or another the Cosmos that we inhabit body house territory world com
municates from above with another level which is transcendent to it
Eliade relates the notion of the Other to the establishment of man as man-
at-home in the world He highlights place as phenomenon of return where
the movement is always from chaos to cosmos from the dispersed to the
centered from non-place to place His basic assumption is that the place is
in place
In Judaic thought however the place is never in place The experience
of being in place is conceived as connection through the place to an abstract
idea that points at the place but remains outside it The sacred is
unplaceable like voice which is the figure of the divine and which cannot
be traced to its placeable origin The voice is encountered out of place
whether on the boundary between places in the desert or on the way from
one earthly place to another Therefore to be in place and specifically to be
in the land called variably Canaan Zio Judea or Israel cannot be auto
matically translated to nativity and cosmology
Unlike place as the center of the world the Judaic notion separates be
tween the and the sacred The place constitutes prominent part in the
grand theological plan but it is not charged with sacredness and is not
medium of the sacred nor of unification and harmony The Jewish place is
called upon to decenter itself at its own center to imagine exile to regard
arbitrariness and to disown what may seem as natural belonging
The pole Eliade describes is stuck in the ground to make the
center of the world and form the cosmos around it As the tribesmen go in
their wanderings they carry their center their cosmology with them When
136 NEVER IN PLACE
they pause and settle down they stick the pole in the ground and the minute
the pole is proclaimed the world is totalized and made sacred In contrast
to that the wandering stick of the Jew is never stuck into place The stick
that indicates settlement is always doubled by another stick around which
parchment is rolled That latter stick indicates the essential wandering even
when being in place it is stuck in the book in the idea
Therefore the place where the Jew settles whether in the land of Israel
or in the diaspora can never be totality Jewish faith defies centrality and
the skewing through of heaven earth and underworld in one axis mundi
The place is meant as medium for the sacred only so far as it does not
become the substitute The shift of the visual to the voice and from
the voice to the book are indicative of such undermining of the center The
vocative and the textual decenter the locative While the place is indispensible
the true sacred center is in the common faith of the people given in the Book
They are at once the People of the Land and the People of the Book
Consequently the notion of place is built on Resistance advocating the
essential distance between the people and their land Accordingly importance
is laid on leaving as counterpoint to arrival on exit to resist nativity the
taken for grantedness of place) and on presence as but trace of absence
This position brings up the contemporary anthropological questioning of
the non necessity of actual place as dimension in human life As Smith
argued against conception of place environment is made out of
activity. it is anthropology not cosmology He claims that the
Achilpa whom Eliade describes as using the pole to build centered cosmos
merely transform the landscape into the text of their myth They wander
not in the world but on the map of their collective memory Place becomes
arbitrary an empty and passive receptacle of the human project and of human
projection This shift from cosmology to anthropology is essential in new
conception in which place-in-the-world is undermined as the anchorage of
the human cosmos Therefore when the pole has been destroyed as in the
destruction of the temple it has not as should have been the case according
to Eliade brought about catastrophe
Neusner claims following Smith that the Mishna written after the de
struction which gives details of temple ritual and other performances linked
with the land needs no territory Mishna creates world of specific place
Jerusalem Temple. it embodies and efforts to break out of the cosmic
conception of order. into that anthropological order in which society
Israelite society forms the mythopoeic center and the model 6)
Medieval Jewish mysticism is another case in point transposing the place
Zio Jerusalem into the own diasporic places or even into their own
souls As Idel asserts Some Hasidic masters considered the place where
they established their court as the land of Israel Even when living in the
real Land of Israel the phantoms of the imaginary accounts where much more
influential than such ancient and concrete loci sacri as the Western Wall
They could thus build their existence around sacred space as living reality
without having to uproot themselves in order to live in it 7)
It should be noted however that already before the destruction and even
before the construction of the first temple the biblical myth maintained the
two options of Place and Diaspora The tension with the real place which
137 ARCHIVES DE SCIENCES SOCIALES DES RELIGIONS
has indeed become mainly symbolic since the destruction of the second temple
has always been vital element in Judaic thought and its dialectic has not
been harmoniously resolved neither in the diaspora nor in the Land itself
We may thus reverse conception and suggest that Judaism or
rather most dominant Judaisms defies axis mundi but it does not defy cen-
trality It posits the place as collective focus of desire effort and meaning
but not as the origin of the sacred The place connects what is anthropology
the people but only the book creates what is cosmology the universe
within the universe
When we consider Jewish history we notice again and again this duality
of the land and the book Neither one of these poles can suffice as center
and dialectic of cosmology and anthropology is created This applies both
in the case of the whole land of Canaan and of its own constructed center
the temple in Jerusalem
THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM
Jewish tradition which is still alive recognizes three concentric circles
the smaller the circle and the closer to the axis the holier the sphere it defines
The three entities embraced by these circles the Land Jerusalem and the
Temple are often identified or substituted for each other Zio for instance
that is the site of the Temple stands for the city in which it is located as
well as for the entire country hence Zionism the movement of the Jews
returning to the Land of Israel The circles may collapse one onto another
and tend to gravitate towards their common axis thus making the Temple in
Jerusalem an epitome of placeness super concentration of sacredness The
Land of Israel sits in the middle of the universe Jerusalem sits in the middle
of the Land the Temple in the middle of Jerusalem... Tanchuma Kedoshim
10 And furthermore the Land of Israel is holier than all other countries.
the city of Jerusalem even holier. and the Temple even more holy than these
two... Kelim 6)
Modern Judaism preserved the preeminence of the external circles espe
cially the Land albeit in more or less secularized form The Land of Israel
as an ideal indeed endured its transposition into modern political universe
of meaning As such the Land was available and perfectly fit to become the
kernel of the Jewish national movement of our time This finds its problematic
manifestation in the notion of the sanctity of the Land celebrated by Zionism
which is essentially secular 8)
By contrast the traditionally inner circle the Temple 9) could not main
tain its former centrality in contemporary religious let alone national life In
the present chapter we shall zero in on the Temple precisely because its pre
sent relevance as holy place is not so pronounced and obvious By examining
ancient traditions concerning the Temple we touch those elements that predate
or even determine the basic attitude towards holy places an attitude we believe
is still in force 10)
Our particular concern with the Temple relates then to the general Judaic
notion of place Eliade uses the Jerusalem Temple to advance his thesis of
138 NEVER IN PLACE
universal applicability and admittedly makes strong case But the attempt
at if orm zâti on of the Jewish case involves historical selectivity if not
conceptual bias He seized upon kind of anachronistic rationalization at
tached to the conception characterizing the formative and classical phases of
ancient Judaism
The Jewish case only partially fits the general pattern transpiring from other
traditions It also manifests distinct features as sacred place which render
model unsatisfactory Particularly though the Jerusalem Temple has some
axis mundi quality it also has different if not opposite quality as well The
latter virtually ignored by Eliade is more subtle and profound than the former
and it manifests unique Jewish attitude towards place
Let Them make Sanctuary that may dwell among Them
Long before the settling of the land and the construction of Jerusalem
and the temple God says And let them make me sanctuary that may
dwell among them Exodus 25 The making of the Temple is not intended
for the dwelling of God The verse seems to divert itself at the last word
from its expected routine course Rather than the anticipated in it it surprises
us with among them This conspicuous diversion indicates in very concise
way the idea of the temple that it only symbolizes faith and thus it is not
cosmology as such but dialectic of cosmology and anthropology place
must be built but the dwelling of God is among the people 11)
Truly solid base for conception that borders on the ideal type of axis
mundi can be found in the sacred texts compiling the legacy of the Jewish
Sages of the first centuries especially the Talmud and all the more so in
the sacred texts documenting the Jewish legacy of the Middle Ages especially
the Kabbalah and the Piyyut There the Jerusalem Temple is depicted as
situated exactly on the navel of the world as the first site on earth from
which creation of the whole world began as perfect reflection of celestial
model as the ultimate defence against chaos securing the cosmic order so
long as it exists as the highest point on the globe as opened and directed
towards heaven reaching out and bridging it with earth while shooting deep
roots that penetrate the underworld etc 12)
However these mythical parts are relatively late cultural product Such
mythologization of the Israeli place of the Temple the Land of Israel and
the city of Jerusalem was added to the Jewish tradition mainly in the post-
biblical era The original writings concerning the Temple hardly comprised
axis-mundi-like elements like that at the site Adam was created by God the
sacrifice of Kain and Hebel took place the arc of Noah landed as the flood
was over etc. Such elements were appended to the pristine notion of the
Temple in the course of time to complement and augment rather than to replace
it The new developement was made to preserve the efficacy of the bond
between the Israelites and their Place through the superaddition of mythic
dimension once the physical ties were severed
The original conception of the Temple survived the new challenge and
remained alongside the later conception the importance of which increased
in correlation with the decrease in the tangibility and probably as
139 ARCHIVES DE SCIENCES SOCIALES DES RELIGIONS
compensation for its historical disappearance From certain point in time
basically since the destruction the two conceptions have coexisted despite
their incongruence Hence later day Jews are inheritors of Janus-faced le
gacy The Israeli place in general particularly the Jerusalem Temple is of
cosmological nature This face is widely known and easily understood The
other face is of anthropological nature that is non-cosmological and by the
same token not autochtonous Jewish sacrality does not emanate from rocks
or mountains The sacredness of the Jerusalem Temple comes neither from
the Foundation Rock hidden at its bottom nor from Mount Moriah on top
of which the Temple is built
The Jerusalem Temple is considered heir to the ark and the tabernacle
These biblical early predecessors of the Temple are not just mobile they are
non-locative in principle 13 contention that the tabernacle never
really existed but was later invented and then projected backward 14) in
order to provide the Temple with an ancient precedent and conceptual model
reinforces our argument the retroactive myth designed to sustain the notion
that the Temple is non-locative
The ark and the tabernacle in Jewish tradition are intermediate points on
the route that begins on Mt Sinai and ends in the Jerusalem Temple They
are mobile Sinai so to say Even the place where the Torah was given
was hardly sanctified and only rarely was considered sacred place by the
Jews unlike Christians and Moslems despite the religiously critical im
portance of the event that took place there It never served for instance as
target for pilgrimage The Temple is the final destination of this non place-
able sanctity 15)
Sacred places in neighboring ancient civilizations were invariably regarded
as primordially so The sacralization of the Israeli place on the contrary is
historical act According to Kaufmann Israelite faith maintained the aspira
tion to substitute natural sanctity with sanctity based on historical choseness
The Temple it is written will be built in the future and thus it does not
contain primordial sacredeness This idea of Temple to be chosen in the
future is diametrically opposed to the of the pagan temple 16)
From the beginning the significance of the Temple was not purely re
ligious but national as well Alongside its cultic and theological centrality it
was the Temple likewise Jerusalem was the city as well
as the city The civil aspect of the Temple corroborates its re
ligious aspect based on anthropological not cosmological principle Likewise
we are always reminded of the historical status rather than primordial at
tributes as the source of the centrality
The historicity of the sacred place and the fact that the sacredness of the
place is rooted beyond it in God are two sides of the coin The sanctity
of the Temple like that of the Land has no meaning but in historical context
i.e at the level of the relationship between the people and its God Sacredness
is matter of selection It is always endowed to what in itself is not sacred
Just as the Land of Israel was selected and promised so the site of the
Temple was nothing but the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite Samuel
II 24 The sacredness of the Temple came from outside it and thus can
desert it at any moment Only the fulfillment of contract the covenant
on the historical level determines sanctity it may be conferred or withdrawn
140 NEVER IN PLACE
Will God Indeed Dwell On Earth
Eliade claims that the Jerusalem Temple is house for God hence holy
place above all others He finds here definitive expression supporting his
general thesis Implied in its application to the Israelite Temple is the pre
sentation of ancient Judaism as yet another one of archaic cultures But even
the explicit biblical reference to the temple as House of God raises some
intriguing questions
recent scholarly essay by historian of early Israel argues that the
idiom Abode of God or His holy place the house etc.) admittedly
quite frequent in the scriptures is actually an unreflected and casual ex
pression or result of carelessness 17 Therefore it should not be under
stood literally Judaism could afford referring to the Temple as seat of God
precisely because it was utterly unthinkable that God may reside there or
for that matter anywhere The natural usage of the term house of God in
advertently reveals the very confidence in the transcendent rather than the
immanent conception of the Divine Paradoxically it might be further sug
gested that the making or sacralization of place like the building of the
Temple is medium through which one can act out the idea that God is not
there
The above mentioned study like countless others in want of an authentic
counterweight for the popular notion of the Jerusalem Temple as dwell
ing points to that famous biblical line which will be quoted here once more
so as to challenge universalization of the Israeli case of the sacred
center The reference is to King ode to God on the occasion
ironically enough of the dedication of the Temple He stretches his arms
towards heaven and asks rhetorically But will God indeed dwell on the
earth and then declares Behold the heaven and heaven of heaven cannot
contain thee how much less this house that have builded Kings 27)
The argumentative form of words betrays the existence of
controversy It seems that the attitude which the builder of the Temple felt
compelled to challenge had some currency The bible contains an abundance
of indications of an inner tension between different attitudes with regard to
the sanctity of the place The scriptures cannot be understood outside the con
text of debate over the conception of place subject which continues to
hound the Israelis to this day
To put this theme in comparative context we should mention the work
of Harold Turner 18 He uses the relationship between immanence and tran
scendence as major parameter for the analysis of temples in general Turner
points out that in various archaic cases the inner and holiest room in the
temple is the farthest one dark and full of smoke or with an empty throne
indicating the absence of God
totally vacant room however as found in the second Jewish Temple
is even more effective 19 After all even chair has some presence it may
point to temporary absence and ipso facto it produces expectation The empty
throne indeed posits itself against the believer thus placing him In vacant
room there is nothing which is in place thus no vis-a-vis experience is
possible and therefore the faithful who faces the Divine can never be placed
141 DE SCIENCES SOCIALES DES RELIGIONS ARCHIVES
But in any case the basic tension inherent in the Jerusalem temple cannot
be exhausted by the immanence-transcendence polarity Even if in certain
senses the Divine is present in the inner sanctum of the temple this presence
does not mean immanence since the origin of that presence always remains
outside the sacred place God The Place is never in place
One might say that the Temple in Jerusalem is empty Or rather that it
is full with emptiness In its dialectical approach the realization of
non-placement can be attained only by arriving at the Temple God is not in
the place but only the place may convey it
To Place His Name There
Even at the heart of the place in its inner sanctum ambivalence remains
It is an ambivalence that takes various shapes in the polemics of the text
The Temple is glorified and made one of the tenets of Jewish religion
and yet at the same time it is openly criticized In fact opposition to the
Temple takes up an important part of the holiest Jewish text though it is not
directed against the temple as such but against those who abuse it primarily
the priests The harshest critics are as expected the prophets They act ob
sessively to purify the Temple from pagan or mythological elements that con
taminate it But these very prophets are also on guard to secure the paramount
status of the Jerusalem Temple as the exclusive center of the cult and the
place of faith truth and justice The prophets no less than the priests have
an interest in the centrality of the Temple But they insist on condemning its
interpretation as cosmological center while dedicating themselves to the pre
servation of its conception as the anthropological center
One way used by the Bible to maintain the above distinction and to avoid
deviant thought is the insistence that it is not God himself who dwells in
the Temple but another entity close but essentially different Thus the Temple
is often mentioned as the House of His Glory Later sources speak of the
Schehinah that stays in the Temple it is an intermediate category an emana
tion of Godhead that lives among the people One other version is the unique
Jewish category of the Name On several important occasions God destines
the Temple To place His name there Deuteronomy 12 5) or that the
Lord will choose to cause his name to dwell there Deuteronomy 12 11
This served the great Torah interpreters including Maimonides as well as
later Halachic scholars as basis for their conception that one does not revere
the Temple but the holy one who ordered us to revere it 20)
The Temple where the Name is placed is thus house of Word the
shrine of the Book The original copy of the Torah was preserved there there
it was copied and proofread and there it was read and studied the function
of reading and studying the Torah became later on characteristic of the
synagogue Hence the latter can be viewed as an organic continuation of the
Temple rather than its antithesis and alternative Needless to add the place
of synagogue is not the source of its sanctity)
The Temple as an abode for an abstract idea which is not confined in
space is accepted by Judaism in natural manner without falling into the
trap of reification At the same time this Jewish notion preempts the need
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